SAN JOSE -– The build up to the Sharks-Oilers game on Thursday at SAP Center had much more to do with what might transpire with the gloves off rather than with them on.
San Jose recalled bruising forward Micheal Haley in the morning, presumably to send a message to the Oilers’ Darnell Nurse for jumping Roman Polak in the previous meeting.
Haley did his job, brawling with Nurse a little more than three minutes into the game and landing a right hook square to Nurse’s jaw, despite giving up six inches to the towering defenseman. The Sharks, who have had trouble lately getting up for lesser teams, seemed energized from it and jumped out to a 2-0 lead while outshooting the Oilers 12-4 in the opening frame.
It went downhill after that, though, and quickly. Edmonton took a 3-2 lead before the midway point of the second period, and outclassed the Sharks over the final 40 minutes of a 6-3 win.
“Maybe we thought it was going to be easy and we were going to score a couple more goals, and we didn’t,” Polak said.
Joe Pavelski, who scored San Jose’s second goal on the power play, said: “We got that 2-0 lead, it has to be game over. They got back in it. … At the end of the night, we have to find a way to win that game.”
For the second straight night the Sharks were unsuccessful in clinching a playoff spot, but more regrettably, they couldn’t take advantage of losses in earlier time zones on the road by the Kings and Ducks. The six-game homestand that was supposed to get them back within striking range of those two clubs, or perhaps even ahead of them, is going by the wayside. They’re now 2-2 with two games left and saw their record at SAP Center dip below .500 again (16-17-3).
And Thursday’s loss came at the hands of the Oilers, of all teams, who are again the favorite to secure another first overall pick in the upcoming draft.
“I really liked our first period, I thought we came ready to play – controlled a lot of the game, the shots, chances,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “If the game had ended after 20 minutes I would have been pretty happy. … For whatever reason, from that point on we stopped playing.
“To their credit, [they pushed] back. We didn’t respond. It’s a disappointing last 40 minutes.”
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In goal, James Reimer was unable to replicate his 31-save shutout performance at Rexall Place earlier this month. He allowed five goals on just 22 shots, likely ending for good any speculation that he could supplant Martin Jones as the playoff starter.
Adam Clendening’s goal on a soft wrist shot from the point gave the Oilers a 3-2 lead at 9:03 of the second. It looked stoppable.
“It’s just one of those that found a way through traffic,” Reimer said. “I thought I was doing what I needed to do. That happens sometimes.”
Of concern, also, is that rookie forward Joonas Donskoi left the game about seven minutes into the second period and did not return. DeBoer didn’t offer much of an update on Donskoi’s condition.
“I don’t know yet. We’ll know in the morning,” he said.
Still, despite losing Donskoi, who has 34 points in 69 games, and still down top defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, DeBoer indicated his club still had enough talent to give a better effort over the final two-thirds of the game. Instead, the Sharks put forth perhaps their worst game since a Jan. 2 loss to Winnipeg.
Among the ugly stats printed on final sheet were 36 giveaways compared to 14 for Edmonton, a minus-5 rating for Joel Ward, and minus-4 ratings for Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau, who were all noticeably bad.
Nurse, by the way, finished with one assist and a plus-4 rating.
“We had enough guys in the lineup to get the job done tonight, and we didn’t get it done,” DeBoer said.